Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, visited the Al-Hudaydah governorate in the east of the country earlier this week, where he is met with representatives of the Al-Herak Al-Tihami movement that advocates the rights of the Tihamah region of Yemen. This is the first time that the UN envoy has met with the group, who have moved increasingly towards using violence to promote their message.
Local sources in Al-Hudaydah confirmed that Benomar met with a number of Herak Al-Tihami leaders and representatives, who are calling for greater justice and equality for the western coastal region, in addition to an end to the looting of the region’s natural resources by the central Sana’a government.
During the meeting, Benomar emphasized the importance of dialogue and peaceful means of protesting, rejecting the use of violence or force. He called on the Tihamah activists to demonstrate their opposition to Sana’a policy through peaceful means and political participation, stressing the importance of the National Dialogue in achieving this.
“The next stage will be based on justice and respect for the law, which will help create a nation that ensures political equality,” Benomar said.
Dr. Hassan Harrad, who leads the Al-Hudaydah Popular Nasserite Union, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the UN envoy’s visit to the region came following a series of meetings Benomar held with Al-Hudaydah Governorate representatives against the backdrop of the recent National Dialogue. He revealed that the Al-Hudaydah representatives had informed Benomar of the plight of the region and its people over the past decades, and he accepted the invitation to visit the region in person.
Dr. Harrad emphasized that the discussions centered on a number of issues, most prominently the lack of government services, land-grabs, and marginalization, as well as the Herak Al-Tihami. He stressed that the people of Al-Hudaydah demand equal citizenship, denying that there were militant voices among those calling for the establishment of an independent province in western Yemen.
The Yemeni Tihami region encompasses the country’s entire western seafront, in addition to the cities of Jizan and Al-Hudaydah; the area is a vital part of Yemen’s fishing industry. Despite this, the coastal governorate, particularly Al-Hudaydah, feel somewhat marginalized by the central Yemeni state, with few politicians from this region in public office or senior military posts, according to Dr. Harrad.
Egypt’s official MENA news agency revealed that one person was killed and thirty others injured in violent clashes between Yemeni military police forces and the Herak Al-Tihami movement in Al-Hudaydah earlier this year.
One day later, on March 8, Herak Al-Tihami gunmen reportedly attempted to storm the Al-Hawak criminal investigation headquarters in Al-Hudaydah governorate, in an attempt to free their detainees.